I wrote about the “small marvelous” last year at this time, wrote about the bell that sits in the bookcase in my office, the bell that was dug up on Proctor grounds by two self-proclaimed “dirt fisherman” Dave Elwell and Dana Newton, the bell that must have jostled off a harness a hundred years ago to sit quiet and silent in the dark for years before the metal detector pinged on it. But it rings again when I pick it off the shelf, the small metal clapper knocking against the nickel sidewalls to send out a warm, wholesome sound. A chuckling ringing, a smiling sound. I imagine it shaking out its winter melody, the sound of sure-footed joy, as a horse-drawn sleigh slips through snow-packed Andover streets. Not hard to conjure after this week’s snow.
Program directors for Mountain Classroom, European Art Classroom, Proctor en Segovia, Ocean Classroom, and Proctor in Costa Rica have talked about each of these remarkable study abroad programs in assembly over the past few weeks. We have all read the blog posts from each of these off-campus programs, and have seen the transformation in the students who return from studying off-campus. With Off-Campus Program applications for the 2018-2019 school year due one week from today, many of the conversations happening right now between advisors, parents, and advisees center around the excitement, and challenges, that accompany studying off-campus.
This is not about Black Friday deals or cyber Monday’s 60% off sales. This is not about the blow up Santas or finding the house with the most light-bedazzled, roof-prancing reindeer. It’s not about the 12 days or the advent calendar. This is about an ornament, a gold snowflake found in a fleece jacket, and the 2X tree it hung on. It’s about remembering the joy that seats itself in the heart, sometimes a far corner, and how small objects and strong memories can help guide us forward.
Is November more beginning or more end? Is it the wind up as in the final stages when the last notes of a song are played or the last calculus problem set of the term is completed? Or the wind up like when a baseball pitcher shifts the seams, finds the curve grip, and collects for a single pitch that is simply one of many?
On a run through Proctor’s cross country trails earlier last week, a Ted Radio Hour played on my headphones. The conversation, facilitated by Guy Raz, discussed Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and how the groundbreaking research of Abraham Maslow in the 1950s laid a foundation for modern psychology (listen to the full show here). As I plodded through the woods on the cold November morning, admiring the rusty oak leaves for their perseverance and looking ahead to Holderness Weekend, my thoughts turned to the intersection of Maslow’s hierarchy and our work at Proctor.
Following the final whistles of today’s games, our attention shifts to a rekindling of the long-dormant end of season rivalry with that school up north. Born on the athletic field more than 100 years ago, Holderness Week took on new life in the late 1960s when former Colby College teammates David Fowler and Bill Clough were hired as football coaches at Proctor and Holderness, respectively. The rivalry intensified over the ensuing years as playful pranks between the schools unified generations of Proctor students and faculty in support of one another. Through the efforts of Holderness’ Rick Eccleston (son of long-time Proctor faculty member Tom Eccleston) and Proctor’s Gregor Makechnie ‘90, Holderness Weekend is back!
Here’s the thing: at some point we all need to tie into something that is a little bigger than we are, a little scary, something evolutionary in nature with a significant time commitment. There are lessons to be learned in these long haul endeavors, lessons that have transferable properties that show up in other areas of life: friendships, marriages, communities, faith, and athletics. The long haul teaches resiliency in a time when so many are conditioned to expect ease of operation, instantaneous answers to online queries, overnight shipping from Amazon, and flawless lives lived seamlessly on social media. One of the constant adolescent illusions we battle today is that something can come from nothing, or in alchemistic fashion lead will turn to gold with the right, easy incantation. And that’s why we need these projects.
The nearly 72 hours of relative quiet that the past long-weekend provides is cherished by both students and adults in the Proctor community. The brief respite following Fall Family Weekend in the midst of an otherwise chaotic fall affords an opportunity to catch up on sleep, laundry, or that long-overdue run in the lingering foliage of late October. Each October, we hunger for this intentional time for reflection prior to the final stretch of the Fall Term.